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Trader Joe’s

Local food stores with a cult following

Sector: Futurestore

Trader Joe’s curates to simplify and humanise. With less it can do more, bringing its personality to life through discovery, humour and storytelling. At the same time, caring about community, environment and good value.

When it comes to grocery stores, there’s nothing quite like Trader Joe’s. Thanks to its mix of clever marketing and proprietary food options, Trader Joe’s has amassed a cult following across America.

Trader Joe’s calls itself a neighbourhood store, yet boasts 350 locations and $8 billion in annual profits. Unlike most stores sprawling with 50000 or more items, curation is key here, with less than 4,000 different products on the shelves. Careful selection helps the chain generate $1,750 per square foot, twice as much as Whole Foods.

Joe Coulombe was the original Trader Joe, and having started out as Pronto Market convenience stores in 1958, moved to his own name two decades later. Joe did things differently, and his stores reflected his love of Hawaiian beach culture with walls decked with cedar planks and staff dressed in cool Hawaiian shirts. Most importantly, he started putting innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods in the “Trader Joe’s” name.

Value mattered to Joe. And the premium, exotic specialities he brought together were complimented by his low-priced own-label ranges which combined quality and quirkiness. In 1979 Joe sold his brand to Theo Albrecht, better known for his low priced Aldi food stores in Europe. Aldi and Joe both believed in keeping things simple. No discounts, points cards, or members clubs. With a limited range the store drives a better supply deal in return for bigger volumes, and quickly drops unpopular items.

Storytelling is everywhere at Trader Joe’s, from the hand-written signage and rustic displays, to the free coffee and sampling, the radio ads and chatty check-out dudes. Whilst most stores focus on automation and speed, this store is real and human, worth coming just to chill out. Even if you never get to visit a store, sign up to the Fearless Flyer online. With off-beat stories and cartoon humour, unusual recipes and showcased products, it’s an intriguing read.

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